Clean and Maintain your Rifle

Cinque Terre

"If you take care of it, it will always take care of you."

Many seasoned hunters across Alberta abide by these wise words, cleaning their firearms after each use. They know what they're doing-a firearm that is properly cleaned and stored will work the same every time you take it into the field. No need for costly repairs. Treat it right, and your rifle will last a lifetime or more.

The Basics

Take your firearm out of its travel case as soon as you get home from the field, and let it warm to room temperature. Hunting in the cold can cause frost and moisture to appear on metal parts of the gun.

If you were hunting in the rain or snow, make sure to wipe all parts of your firearm with an oiled cloth. A little gun oil on a cotton cloth will wipe away moisture and ensure a thin coating of oil is left on metal parts. The oil prevents rust or corrosion from forming on the metal, and wood finishes from cracking or lifting.

Always clean blood from the barrel or stock, as it can discolour or cause pitting. Clean any checkering on your stock with a soft toothbrush to keep the crafted edges and design of the woodwork.

The Barrel

The accuracy of any rifle is closely tied to the barrel. Powder residue and metal, like copper from the jacket of your bullet, foul with the rifling (the grooves in the barrel that grip and spin the bullet). Overlooking these deposits leads to build-up that destroys accuracy and is very difficult to remove down the road. Cleaning the barrel regularly ensures your rifle shoots as optimally as possible. Here's how:

  1. Follow the safety warnings and directions on product labels to avoid injury or damage to you or your firearm. Work on a flat surface and in a well-ventilated space.
  2. Start by running a cotton patch with solvent through the bore. Pass this patch through the bore and out of the muzzle. It will be stained with black residue and under no circumstances should be pulled back through the bore.
    Tip: Using a bore guide will help prevent damage to the barrel. Do not use metal cleaning rods that are bent-the bend will rub against the bore, which can cause premature wear. 
  3. Make sure the entire length of the barrel is covered with solvent before running a brass cleaning brush all the way through your firearm. The brush will help loosen or remove crud and fouling that can hold tight to metal. A clean patch swabbed through the barrel reveals how much debris was clinging to the inside. Continue swabbing the barrel with clean patches until a patch comes out clean.
  4. Finish the bore by running a thin coat of gun oil through on a clean patch. The oil will keep metal protected during storage or travel until you use it again.

The Bolt

Remove and clean the bolt on your rifle with cleaning solvent and a cotton cloth. Ensure the bolt face is free of fouling. If you're hunting in freezing temperatures, let the bolt dry completely before reinserting into your rifle. Moisture can slow moving components of your bolt when you want it to fire. A slow or sticky bolt may not allow the firing pin to strike the primer of a cartridge to ignite the powder. If you know you are going to be hunting in freezing conditions, try cleaning your bolt with brake or carburetor cleaner, and allow it to dry completely before using it.

Remember: Never store a damp firearm in a case, even for a short time. Keep an oiled cloth in all of your gun cases or bags for quick and easy field maintenance.

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